July 12, 2011 -- /PRNewswire/ -- New research shows that American consumers have diet disconnect and misconceptions about their own body weight, making it harder to make significant improvements in their eating and exercise behaviors. Although national surveys show that 67% of Americans are overweight or obese, this latest survey reveals that only 52% of Americans believe they are overweight or obese.
Americans' lack of knowledge about body weight and diet is considered to be one of the many contributing factors in the nation's growing obesity epidemic. Many of those who acknowledge they are overweight or obese are not willing or able to overcome barriers to eating right, such as cost and difficulty. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed say cost is the major roadblock to making better nutrition choices, followed by too hard (35 percent) and too time consuming (35 percent).
The survey of 1,000 Americans by Russell Research was commissioned by Pollock Communications, a full service public relations agency specializing in food and nutrition communications, as part of its ongoing work to understand and translate key consumer health and nutrition trends for its clients.
The survey also revealed that men, as well as younger Americans (ages 18 - 34), are more likely to underestimate their weight woes than women and older Americans (ages 35 - 54). This suggests that as younger Americans grow up in a more overweight country, they're less likely to recognize that they are overweight.
Registered dietitian of Appetite for Health, Julie Upton, MS, RD, is not surprised by the findings: "A significant number of studies show that American consumers are becoming numb or immune to the reality that they are overweight or maybe even obese. With numerous environmental changes, from stretchy fabrics to larger car and movie theater seats, many Americans feel they are a normal weight despite actually being overweight. Overweight is the new normal weight in the United States."
In fact, another recent survey conducted by the non-profit International Food Information Council (IFIC) shows that fewer Americans are worried about their weight this year as compared with last year, and concern about weight loss and overall perception of personal healthfulness is at an all time low. Making Healthier Choices Easier According to the Pollock survey, three-fourths of Americans (76%) say in-store nutrition information helps them make better choices, but these choices don't necessarily translate to a healthier weight.
Even with the wealth of nutrition information available from food manufacturers and retailers, consumer behaviors aren't changing.
"Consumers may say that nutrition information on labels helps them, but most research shows that the vast majority of individuals do not know how many calories they should eat daily, and that information is one of the key factors in using food labels to improve one's diet," adds Upton.
The majority of married respondents to the Pollock survey said that spouses have the biggest influence on eating decisions. So, if husbands are under the misconception that they are normal weight, they might be influencing the poor diet choices of the entire family.
Does it cost more to eat well or be fat?
More than 57% of respondents say cost is the major barrier to healthy eating. Upton dispels this myth and says, "With the rise in healthcare costs, Americans do not realize that the cost of being overweight or obese is far greater than the cost of eating well." National statistics show healthcare costs as a result of overweight and obesity were as high as $147 billion in 2008, and experts predict that obesity-related costs could reach $344 billion by 2018.(1) "A healthy diet is not as expensive as people think and can not only save lives but money in the long run," Upton says. (1) Finkelstein, EA, Trogdon, JG, Cohen, JW, and Dietz, W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs 2009; 28(5): w822-w831. Retrieved May 6, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/causes/economics.html